ORLANDO, Fla. – Sports has a new power couple: Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn confirmed they’re dating.
Two months after rumors began circulating in Europe, Woods and Vonn posted separate items on their Facebook pages Monday afternoon to announce their relationship. The posts include photos of golf’s 14-time major winner and the Olympic and World Cup downhill ski champion.
“This season has been great so far, and I’m happy with my wins at Torrey and Doral,” Woods said. “Something nice that’s happened off the course was meeting Lindsey Vonn. Lindsey and I have been friends for some time, but over the last few months we have become very close and are now dating.”
Woods made a stop in Austria – where Vonn was competing in the Alpine skiing world championships – in January on his way to Abu Dhabi to start his season. Two weeks ago, after he won the Cadillac Championship at Doral for his second win this year, The Daily Mail published photos that showed a woman, who appeared to be Vonn, in a golf cart at the marina where Woods’ yacht “Privacy” was docked.
“I guess it wasn’t a well-kept secret but yes, I am dating Tiger Woods,” Vonn said on her Facebook page. “Our relationship evolved from a friendship into something more over these past few months, and it has made me very happy.”
Both said they wanted to keep everything else private.
Woods posted four photos with Vonn on his page, while Vonn’s had one of those photos.
Vonn is recovering from right knee surgery – something familiar to Woods – after a Feb. 5 crash that ended her season. Her divorce from Thomas Vonn after more than four years became official in January. They separated in 2011. Vonn, whose maiden name is Kildow, decided to keep Vonn as her last name after the divorce.
The announcement came one day after the World Cup season ended. Vonn hopes to return in time for the Olympics next year in Sochi.
Woods’ past relationships are far more sensational.
His marriage of five years to Elin Nordegren of Sweden collapsed in 2010 after shocking revelations of multiple extramarital affairs. His infidelity was exposed the night after Thanksgiving in 2009 when he ran his car into a tree and a fire hydrant outside his Florida home.
Woods spent the summer of 2010 working out details of a divorce, which became official in August that year. They share custody of their two children.
The 37-year-old Woods rarely discusses any aspect of his private life, and it was surprising that he acknowledged a relationship with Vonn, much less post studio photos of him, in a short-sleeve Nike golf shirt, and Vonn, in a light blue warm-up jacket. But this would preclude paparazzi making big money when they are photographed together for the first time.
He is playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week at Bay Hill, where he is a seven-time winner and the defending champion. Woods can return to No. 1 in the world for the first time since October 2010 if he wins.
After that, Woods is not expected to play until the Masters on April 11-14.
The 28-year-old Vonn is the premier ski racer of her generation, an owner of four World Cup overall titles, along with gold and bronze medals from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics that earned her AP Female Athlete of the Year honors. She is the only skier – male or female – to win one of the annual AP awards that date back to 1931.
Dominant against other top female skiers, Vonn petitioned the International Ski Federation to let her compete against men in a downhill race, but the request was rejected last year. Her 59 career World Cup race victories are three shy of the record, and she recently claimed a sixth consecutive World Cup downhill title.
Vonn’s season was cut short when she shredded two knee ligaments and broke a bone in her lower right leg in a crash during this year’s world championships. She hopes to return at the start of the next World Cup season in November and, if healthy, she would be one of the top athletes at the Sochi Olympics next year.
During a conference call with reporters last month to discuss her recovery from the injury, Vonn declined to talk about rumors of a relationship with Woods.
Woods has gone through four surgeries on his left knee, including reconstruction after winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 despite shredded ligaments and two stress fractures of his tibia.
Along with his 14 majors, Woods has won 17 times in the World Golf Championships (no one else has won more than three), and after Bay Hill he will have the record for most weeks (789) in the top 10 of the world ranking dating to 1986.
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.